IMAGES (1910-1915) %
By RICHARD ALDINGTON
THE POETRY BOOKSHOP
35 DEVONSHIRE STREET
THEOBALDS ROAD, W.C.
Non cantmus surdts.
A number of these poems have already
appeared: some in " Des Imagistes" (The
Poetry Bookshop ; New York, Boni) ; some
in " Some Imagist Poets " (Constable & Co. ;
Boston & New York, Houghton Mifflin Co.) ;
others in " The Egoist," and one in " Poetry
and Drama." Others have appeared in
American periodicals : " Poetry " (Chicago),
" The Little Review " (Chicago), " The Poetry
Journal " (Boston), and " Greenwich Village"
(New York). Permission to reprint has in
each case been granted by the publishers and
editors concerned, to whom my thanks are
PR 600 1
TO A GREEK MARBLE
White grave goddess,
Pity my sadness,
silence of Paros.
1 am not of these about thy feet.
These garments and decorum ;
I am thy brother,
Thy lover of aforetime crying to thee,
And thou hearest me not.
I have whispered thee in thy solitudes
Of our loves in Phrygia,
The far ecstasy of burning noons
When the fragile pipes
Ceased in the cypress shade.
And the brown fingers of the shepherd
Moved over slim shoulders ;
And only the cicada sang.
I have told thee of the hills
And the lisp of reeds
And the sun upon thy breasts,
And thou hearest me not.
Thou hearest me not.
; " 076
I drifted along the river
Until I moored my boat
By these crossed trunks.
Here the mist moves
Over fragile leaves and rushes,
Colourless waters and brown fading hills.
She has come from beneath the trees,
Moving within the mist,
A floating leaf.
O blue flower of the evening,
You have touched my face
With your leaves of silver.
Love me, for I must depart.
IN AN OLD GARDEN
I have sat here happy in the gardens,
Watching the still pool and the reeds
And the dark clouds
Which the wind of the upper air
Tore like the green leafy boughs
Of the divers-hued trees of late summer ;
But though I greatly delight
In these and the water lilies,
That which sets me nighest to weeping
Is the rose and white colour of the smooth flag-stones.
And the pale yellow grasses
BEAUTY THOU HAST HURT ME OVERMUCH
The light is a wound to me.
The soft notes
Feed upon the wounds.
Where wert thou born
O thou woe
That consumest my life ?
Whither comest thou ?
Toothed wind of the seas,
No man knows thy beginning.
As a bird with strong claws
Thou woundest me,
O beautiful sorrow.
O you most fair,
Swayer of reeds, whisperer
Among the flowering rushes.
You have hidden your hands
Beneath the poplar leaves.
You have given them to the white waters.
Sea-child cold from waves,
Slight reed that sang so blithely in the wind.
White cloud the white sun kissed into the air ;
Pan mourns for you.
White limbs, white song.
Pan mourns for you.
IN THE VIA SESTINA
O daughter of Isis,
Thou standest beside the wet highway
Of this decayed Rome,
A manifest harlot.
Straight and slim art thou
As a marble phallus ;
Thy face is the face of Isis
As she is carven in basalt.
And my heart stops with awe
At the presence of the gods,
There beside thee on the stall of images
Is the head of Osiris
The ancient songs
Pass deathward mournfully.
Cold lips that sing no more, and withered wreaths.
Regretful eyes, and drooping breasts and wings —
Symbols of ancient songs
Down to the great white surges.
Watched of none
Save the frail sea-birds
And the lithe pale girls.
Daughters of Okeanus.
And the songs pass
From the green land
Which lies upon the waves as a leaf
On the flowers of hyacinth ;
And they pass from the waters,
The manifold winds and the dim moon.
And they come,
Silently winging through soft Kimmerian dusk.
To the quiet level lands
That she keeps for us all.
That she wrought for us all for sleep
In the silver days of the earth's dawning —
Proserpina, daughter of Zeus.
And we turn from the Kyprian's breasts,
And we turn from thee,
And we turn from the music of old
And the hills that we loved and the meads.
And we turn from the fiery day,
And the lips that were over sweet ;
Brushing the fields with red-shod feet.
With purple robe
Searing the flowers as with a sudden flame.
Thou hast come upon us.
And of all the ancient songs
Passing to the swallow blue halls
By the dark streams of Persephone,
This only remains :
That we turn to thee.
That we turn to thee, singing
One last song.
Thou art an healing wind
That blowest over white flowers
A-tremble with dew ;
Thou art a wind flowing
Over dark leagues of lonely sea ;
Thou art the dusk and the fragrance ;
Thou art the lips of love mournfully smiling ;
Thou art the pale peace of one
Satiate with old desires ;
Thou art the silence of beauty,
And we look no more for the morning,
We yearn no more for the sun.
Since with thy white hands,
Thou crownest us with the pallid chaplets,
The slim colourless poppies
Which in thy garden alone
Softly thou gatherest.
And with slow feet approaching.
And with bowed head and unlit eyes,
We kneel before thee :
And thou, leaning towards us,
Caressingly layest upon us
Flowers from thy thin cold hands.
And, smiling as a chaste woman
Knowing love in her heart.
Thou seelest our eyes
And the illimitable quietude
Comes gently upon us.
Like a gondola of green scented fruits
Drifting along the dark canals at Venice,
You, O exquisite one.
Have entered my desolate city.
The blue smoke leaps
Like swirling clouds of birds vanishing.
So my love leaps forth towards you
Vanishes and is renewed.
A rose-yellow moon in a pale sky
When the sunset is faint vermilion
On the mist among the tree-boughs
Are you to me.
As a young beech-tree on the edge of a forest
Stands still in the evening,
Then shudders through all its leaves in the light air
And seems to fear the stars —
So are you still and so tremble.
The red deer are high on the mountain,
They are beyond the last pine-trees.
And my desires have run with them.
The flower which the wind has shaken
Is soon filled again with rain ;
So does my heart fill slowly with tears
Until you return.
You were that clear Sicilian fluting
That pains our thought even now.
You were the notes
Of cold fantastic grief
Some few found beautiful.
The beech-leaves are silver
For lack of the tree^s blood.
At your kiss my lips
Become like the autumn beech-leaves.
She has new leaves
After her dead flowers,
Like the little almond tree
Which the frost hurt.
THE FAUN SEES SNOW FOR THE FIRST TIME
Send vengeance on these Oreads
White frozen flecks of mist and cloud
Over the brown trees and the tufted grass
Of the meadows, where the stream
Runs black through shining banks
Of bluish white.
Are the halls of heaven broken up
That you flake down upon me
Feather-strips of marble ?
Dis and Styx !
When I stamp my hoof
The frozen-cloud-specks jam into the cleft
Sothat I reel upon two slippery, points . .
Fool, to stand here cursing
When I might be running !
And beyond Nineveh
In the dusk
They were afraid.
In Thebes of Egypt
In the duslc
They chanted of them to the dead.
In my Lesbos and Achaia
Where the God dwelt
We knew them.
Now men say *' They are not " :
But in the dusk
Ere the white sun comes —
A gay child that bears a white candle-
I am afraid of their rustling,
Of their terrible silence,
The menace of their secrecy.
We will come down to you,
O very deep sea,
And drift upon your pale green waves
Like scattered petals.
We will come down to you from the hills,
From the scented lemon groves,
From the hot sun.
We will come down,
And drift upon
Your pale green waves
Will you not leave the dark fastness
And set your steel- white foot upon the foam,
And come across the rustling sand
Setting it adrift with the wind of your raiment ?
For these women have laid out a purple cloth.
And they have builded you an altar
Of white shells for the honey.
Girdle the gold about you,
Set the silver upon your hair
And remember us —
We, who have grown weary even of music.
We who would scream behind the wild dogs of Scythia.
HERMES, LEADER OF THE DEAD
We, who loved thy lyre,
Yet knew the end of all songs
A lamentation and a mourning ;
We, who loved Eos —
That maiden whiter than Narcissus —
And loved the midday heat, the sea- winds
Rustling across the vineyards ;
Now in the twilight
Hold forth trembling hands
To thee, Hermes,
Leader of the Dead.
Bear us upon thy winged flight
Down the dark blue ways unto Orcus ;
Make us stabile
With thy imperishable hands.
For our feet stumble, and age
Loosens our knees ;
Our wearied eyes
Yearn for the heavy bowed gold blossoms
Beneath the very grey sky
Black and scarlet,
Spotted with white,
Fans its wings
Over a privet flower . . .
A thousand crimson foxgloves,
Tall bloody pikes.
Stand motionless in a gravel quarry ;
The wind runs over them.
A rose film over a pale sky
Fantastically cut by dark chimneys ;
Candles winking in the windows
Across an old city garden.
AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM
I turn the page and read :
' ' I dream of silent verses where the rhyme
Glides noiseless as an oar."
The heavy musty air, the black desks,
The bent heads and the rustling noises
In the great dome
Vanish . . .
The sun hangs in the cobalt-blue sky,
The boat drifts over the lake shallows,
The fishes skim like umber shades through the undulating
The oleanders drop their rosy petals on the lawns,
And the swallows dive and swirl and whistle
About the cleft battlements of Can Grande's castle . . .
Hot, a griffin's mouth of flame,
The sun rasped with his golden tongue
The city's streets, till men and walls shrivelled ;
The dusty air stagnated.
At the third noon
A wind rippled,
A sea silently breaking ;
A thin veil of rain-drops
Hid the sun and the hard blue.
A grey garment of rain.
Cold as hoar-frost in April
IN THE TUBE
The electric car jerks ;
I stumble on the slats of the floor,
Fall into a leather seat
And look up.
A row of advertisements,
A row of windows,
Set in brown woodwork pitted with brass nails,
A row of hard faces,
In the swaying train.
Rush across the flickering background of fluted dingy
A row of eyes»
Eyes of greed, of pitiful blankness, of plethoric
Gaze, stare at one point.
At my eyes.
Cut my brain, as a sharp dry reed
Cuts a finger.
I surprise the same thought
In the brasslike eyes :
" What right have you to live ?**
After the click and whirr
Of the glimmering pictures,
The dry feeling in the eyes
As the sight follows the electric flickerings,
The banal sentimentality of the films,
The hushed concentration of the people,
The tinkling piano —
A vast avalanch of greenish yellow light
Pours over the threshold ;
White globes darting vertical rays
Spot the sombre buildings ;
The violent gloom of the night
Battles with the radiance ;
Swift figures, legs, skirts, white cheeks, hats
Flicker in oblique rays of dark and light.
Millions of human vermin
Along the night-arched cavernous roads.
(Happily rapid chemical processes
Will disintegrate them all.)
Blow your tin squeals
On your reedy whistle.
Here they come
In linked dance
Gay girls dancing
in the frozen street.
Hair streaming, and white raiment
Red lips that first were
Red in Ephesus.
You ? Red-nose, piping by the Red-Lion,
Did you bring them !
Here, take my pennies,
Mon semblable, mon here.
The chimneys, rank on rank,
Cut the clear sky ;
With a rag of gauze about her loins
Poses among them, an awkward Venus-
And here am I looking wantonly at her
Over the kitchen sink.
(Easter Monday, 1915.)
Dark clouds, torn into gaps of livid sky.
By a swift searchlight, long and white like a dagger.
The black murmuring crowd flows, eddies, stops, flows on
Between the lights
And the banks of noisy booths.
ST. MARY'S, KENSINGTON
The orange plane-leaves
Rest gently on the cracked grey slabs
In the city churchyard.
O pitiful dead,
There is not one of those who pass by
To remember you.
But the trees do not forget ;
Their severed tresses
Are laid sadly above you.
At nights I sit here,
Shading my eyes, shutting them if you glance up,
Pretending to doze,
And watching you,
I think of when I first saw the beauty of things —
God knows I was poor enough and sad enough
And humiliated enough —
But not all the slights and the poorness and the worry
Could hide away the green of the poplar leaves,
The ripple and light of the little stream,
The pattern of the ducks' feathers,
The dawns I saw in the winter
When I went shooting,
The summer walks and the winter walks.
The hot days with the cows coming down to the water,
Buttercups and meadowsweet and hog's parsley,
And the larks singing in the morning, and the thrushes
Trilling at dusk when I went out into the fields
I looked at the world as God did
When first He made it.
I saw that it was good.
And now at nights,
Now that everything has gone right somehow,
And I have friends and books
And no more bitterness,
I sit here, shading my eyes.
Peeping at you, watching you,
I lie awake; and listen.
The water drips musically in the large zinc tank ; the
little watch beside me ticks away the seconds of my life ;
and at long intervals the bell of St. Mary Abbot's growls
out huskily the quarters : ding, ding, dang, dong !
Silence. The water drips slower and more musically ; the
watch ticks more gently ; the window curtain rustles a
little in the wind and a faint confused glow of moonlight
slips into the room.
Silence. I rise and draw the curtain. The white misty
moonlight chequers the houses into blocks and lines and
angles of watery silverish white and intense black
shadows. There is no movement, no sound in the city.
No sound ? A train whistle blows very faint and shrill and
clear and far away — clearer than bugles and as shrill as
a wandering night bird. A train is running out from
Marylebone or Victoria . . .
Very faint and shrill and far away the whistle sounds —
more like a wild bird than ever. And my unsatisfied
desires and empty wishes and vague yearnings are
suddenly set aching by the thin tremulous whistle.
It is night ; and silent.
The mist is still beside the frozen dyke ; it lies on the stiff
grass, about the poplar trunks. The last star goes out.
The gulls are coming up from the sea, crying, and drifting
across like pieces of mist, like fragments of white cloth.
They turn their heads and peer as they pass. The sky
low down glows deep purple.
The plovers swirl and dart over the ploughed field beyond ;
their screams are sorrowful and sharp. The purple drifts
up the pale sky and grows redder. The mist stirs.
The brass on the harness of the plough-horses jingles
as they come into the field. The birds rise in scattered
knots. The mist trembles, grows thinner, rises. The
red and gold sky shines dully on the ice.
The men shout across the thawing clods ; the ploughs
creak ; the horses steam in the cold ; the plovers and
gulls have gone ; the sparrows twitter.
The sky is gold and blue, very faint and damp.
It is day.
Dance in a squall ;
Behind them bleak immoveable clouds.
A church spire
Holds up a little brass cock
To peck at the blue wheat-fields.
Roofs, conical spires, tapering chimneys,
Livid with sunlight, lace the horizon.
A pear-tree, a broken white pyramid
In a dingy garden, troubles me
At night, the moon, a pregnant woman,
Walks cautiously over the slippery heavens.
And I am tormented,
Among all this beauty.
With a vision of ruins.
Of walls crumbling into clay.
AFTER TWO YEARS
She is all so slight
And tender and white
As a May morning.
She walks withou hood
At dusk. It is goc
To hear her sing.
It is God's will
That I shall love her still
As He loves Mary,
And night and day
I will go forth to pray
That she love me.
She is as gold
Lovely, and far more cold.
Do thou pray with me.
For if I win grace
To kiss twice her face
God has done well to me.
Printed by Gowans Brothers (S. E. Roberts, Propr.). S* Paternoster Row, E.C.
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